2019 Tillman Scholar

Benjamin Welch

Marine Corps
East Tennessee State University

“I want to set the example for my patients, inspire them to take ownership of their health and improve the health of the Appalachian region one patient at a time.”

Following in the footsteps of his father’s 28 years of service as a submarine officer in the Navy and grandfather’s 24 years as a pilot in the Air Force, Ben began his career in the Marine Corps in 2004 where he trained as a rifleman and scout sniper, and later became a logistics officer. A decade later, he found himself fighting a different kind of battle after returning from his third deployment to learn that his wife was trapped in an opioid addiction that arose from numerous back surgeries. After a painful and frustrating experience attempting to navigate the health care system with her, he decided to return to school and dedicate his time to helping people through their mental health struggles.

Ben is currently pursuing a medical degree through the rural primary care track at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine, with plans to complete a residency in psychiatry. During his volunteer experiences with the “no veteran dies alone” program at the nearby VA hospital, he has developed a strong desire to pursue further training in palliative care.

Ben plans to continue serving in the Appalachian region, who’s beauty is unfortunately marred by some of the poorest health outcomes in the country. Though an aggressive goal, the hope is to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health conditions (not just addictions), and to help educate patients on how to maximize their health and die with dignity.